Mama Negra, a Bull Fight and a Bike Ride

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November 9th 2009
Published: November 11th 2009EDIT THIS ENTRY

We are currently in Banos, a small town about 200km south of Quito. It reminds me a lot of Moab in Utah, USA, such is the vibe of the place full of young adventurers! We arrived this morning after spending two nights in Latacunga, a place a bit off the beaten track for tourists and thus quite rewarding. We were there for the Mama Negra festival - an annual party celebrating a diversity of cultures including Catholic, pre-Colombian and Indigenous cultures. But really it is an alcohol fueled do where the men dress as women and black themselves up, carrying giant hogs and cuy (roasted Guinea Pigs) while spitting sugar cane alcohol at all those not in the procession! The head of the procession is a man dressed as the Goddess Mercedes who protects the town from the wrath of Cotopaxi, but not very well as the place has been destroyed by three eruptions in the last 150 years.

Yesterday we attended our first bull fight. It was a brutal affair and not one we will be rushing back to although we were both pleased we went. The commissioner began proceedings and it was fascinating watching the etiquette of the

Not oil of for trademark reasons
Matadors but the poor bulls getting a pretty rough deal. They get spiked and humiliated continuously for about 30 minutes before a final blow between the shoulder blades makes them sink to their knees and the coup de grace is a dagger severing their spinal cord to end the pain. Savage. Vegetarians beware. The commissioner then awarded each matador various combinations of ears and tail depending on the level of their performance. Three matadors were trampled by the bull and so lost points but returned to get even closer to the bull and regain some measure of respect. The fight is a family affair attended by the great and good of Ecuadorian society. The $5 entrance fee is simply too steep for the majority of ┬┤normal┬┤citizens when soccer is a dollar down the road.

We departed on a 61 km 'downhill' bike ride to Puyo, a small and humid jungle town east of Banos. They sell it as the downhill 'Waterfall Road' because Puyo sits 900m lower than Banos, but in reality it is an undulating route after the first 20km (where most people end the trip and catch a bus back) ascending over 2000m. On a mountain bike this is hard work but being stubborn types we pressed on until we finally crawled into Puyo some four and half hours later. On route, Lindsay ploughed on ahead entering the wrong side of a pitch black one way tunnel. We missed the best of the eight waterfalls because we were in a rhythm. We walked up into the cloud forest half way along and were eaten alive by Mosquitos. We had a puncture and despite fixing it had to pump air into the tire every km for the final six, before befriending a policeman who flagged a bus down for us. Our bikes were held on the roof in motion by the ticket collector as the bus thundered on at 40mph (he was stood on the roof!) Eventually, the inspector appeared through a window while we were flying round another corner a la Indiana Jones.

Tomorrow we depart for Cuenca after a revitalizing treatment at one of the Spa's. Apparently they lock you in a box with your head sticking out and raise the temperature inside the contraption to approx 50 degrees! Then you get hoosed down by a bloke and have a dip in a thermal bath before drinking a strange yuka milkshake and feeling a lot better. We'll see.

We love you all, except for the weird one of you who emailed me thinking this was Wayne Brady's blog (Host of Lets Make a Deal) to complain about the fact we got picked without wearing costumes. For you there is no love.

Hasta Leugo Amigos.


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